España VII – El Pais de Dios V

Ana and Salva are very interesting people, Salva (being from Valencia originally) trained horses and they had a little farm area going on with more cats than I can count, a flock of chickens and a large orchard with all kinds of fruit tree’s. A big piece of land and it was very interesting seeing him train horses, he was at the level now where he would just take them out of the pen and they would have to walk after him while he guided them with the briddle. Every time they overstepped their bounds, he would stop, lightly tap them against the front legs, they would step back and he would give them a treat. Watching this from a distance felt like meditation in its own right and he was being very careful and tranquilo about it. Ana was originally from Léon and they both escaped city life as they say.

Salva training one of his horses

They supplied me with fresh eggs and fruits and Ana also gave me a nice bag of oolong tea that blended well with my green tea that I still had from my parents package. A piece of cheese, a bar of chocolate. The people were literal Angels.

I had already asked them if I could make them a meal one of these days before I left, as a thank you and they gladly accepted. I had trouble finding the right ingredients in the local store however.

I had already made a walking stick for Ana (she had a dog of the same breed as Lucy) and a small whip like stick for Salva similar to what he trained his horses with. Just a small gesture, since there weren’t any other pilgrims around to make walking sticks for. I had also made a nice pilgrim staff for Nela, the Polish woman that owned the little house officially..

One faithful day Im walking out of Castrojarez and Im bumming off the local wifi to download some podcasts for the evening and all of a sudden I hear the voice of a guy behind me. He tells me that his name is Santiago (of all names) and that he’s from Barcelona, he invites me into a place called El Fuero. Inside I meet with 2 Italians called Tiziano and Gigio. Tiziano being co-owner of the restaurant and Gigio, a friend of his. There was also another guy called Jorge who lived in the village and had built the little shack that I was staying in. Pretty fucking random all in all but it gets better.

Tiziano and Santiago had done the pilgrimage in the beginning of the year from St. Jean Pied de Port, where Santiago had convinced Tiziano to rent the restaurant in the town and open it up to pilgrims and locals alike. A dream that many pilgrims hold but never make true. Gigio was brought in as a chef and they had all spent most of the beginning of the year renovating the place, new bar, water filter, a house on the 2ndfloor in the back and just when they were open for business – lockdown happened. They told me they had spent 1 busy night with mostly locals and then they had to close up shop. That was about a month ago by the time I met them and they had some take out/take away clientele with some of the locals. They gave me a beer and some weed and yea, very nice people all around. I promised them I would drop by at some point again and use their internet lol. Good conversations and it was nice having some social contact with people that also talked English (Tiziano and Santiago talked English perfectly). Gigio also had his dog with him and she (Malu) and Lucy got off on the wrong foot right away, Lucy not being very forthcoming to strong black dogs and Malu being a little possessive and tense. Still all good though and I was definitely going to drop by as soon as possible.

Easter came and went and I had a lockdown Easter brunch with the family, me taking my blanket and preparing a meal up front to eat while being in a conference call with my brother and his girlfriend and my parents. Brave, new, world I tell ya. Still very good to talk to them and to actually see them, more like them watching me eat haha.

I went by my newfound friends in the next couple of weeks and it was good fun, a few drunken nights and I got to work on the website in their nice apartment. Even got the chance to play some Playstation which was just very satisfying. Tiziano and Gigio being excellent chefs, the food was off the fucking chain and after eating omelets for a couple of weeks, it was good eating a steak or a nice pasta. Tiziano and Santiago taking very well care of me. We drove up to the castle a couple of times overlooking the Mesetas / table mountain perfectly and I wondered about ancient armies roaming these lands with the castle being used as a defensive lookout. The town itself being specifically mentioned in the documentary alchemist Roland had shown me all that time ago in France. With a skull and crossbones where on the left is a hole in the wall. No clue what it means and I wasn’t fully on board with the interpretation from the documentary, still took a nice photo in front of it though. 

Castrojarez + table mountain

Them ticks though, them fucking ticks though. They were increasing in numbers and every day I had to remove at least 10 off Lucy, sometimes I would wake up during the middle of the night because one crawled through my fucking mustache. I had grown slightly indifferent and Im not sure if I had a mild PTSD thing going on or if I just really stopped giving a fuck. Im lucky that Im not as hairy as Lucy or they would have probably feasted on me a little bit more instead of just crawling on me. 

I caught up on the diary fast enough and the blogging also went really well. Writing my final parts of France. I was falling behind a little further than expected but well, shit. Its a pandemic, what can ya do? The surrounding area were just all rolling hills, last time I was here it was as dry as the traffic to this website.

Instead of forcing a home cooked meal, I put 2 and 2 together and asked Santiago and Tiziano if I could bring Ana and Salva to their restaurant and explained my idea.. They would get some more local exposure and Ana and Salva would have a night out in the normalcy of the “old world”. Santiago being an awesome guitar player (even having an anekdote about playing for the Queen of The Netherlands, we drank and ate till our hearts content, mostly drink. At around 2100h, I felt like going home and giving creative expression to the alcohol in my blood but Ana and Salva had other plans and we were finally home around 0500h in the morning. Ana and Salva loved it though, they already knew Jorge whom they called Jorgito lovingly and the owner of El Fuero, absolutely cherishing the social contact and being out of the house. It was good to give them some sort of payback for this entire thing and even though I kind of fell behind in the whole talking Spanish department, it was still good fun and I didn’t feel left out or anything the more the alcohol flowed. Dear Ana even offering up payment for the evening at the end of it (although I already took care of it with Tiziano). 50 € was a more than fair deal since we ate and drank like kings, live music and song NOT to mention I had bummed off more meals than just that 1 night off them. Good business is about making good friends!

I was becoming restless however, the ticks were driving me nuts, the same store every 2 days and the same people, ’twas time to hit the road again soon. Having healed up about a week and a half ago. The next part wasn’t going to be pretty but the destructive heat thats normally present there didn’t quite hit yet and it was running late. I saw this as a sign and also the fact that day 200 of my trip was coming up next Wednesday made me think this was an ideal moment to leave. Having spent 23 days in San Anton and Castrojarez.

I told Ana and Salva a few days in advance as to not put them in an awkward position with police, in fact it was maybe better to leave the place like a thief in the night, French monastery style with a nice message thanking them for everything. Spanish people be weird with police and defying authority like that. I had planted some sunflower seeds that already grown a bit and I was planning on giving one to them. Along with a nice note with my stamp on it of course.

Day 199 was rainy, the weeks throughout were rather rainy and wet, switched by days of excruciating sun. It was a nice place to lay low but I felt like my day to part with the place had come. 

Day 200 I packed all my stuff and I felt slow, I wasn’t reluctant to leave but it definitely felt like something was slowing me down like I had so many times during this pilgrimage already and I prepared myself for whatever the camino had in store for me next requiring such precise timing. I swear to God during this trip it has been a couple of times where I felt like I was stuck in the mud, all before finding my stride and breaking out of it and just clearing 20km without even blinking. I planned on going by Ana and Salva but their gate was sadly locked, as it was a couple of times during the last 3 weeks I had spent in this beautiful place. I hung some of the stuff I had from them off the gate with the note and the sunflower and went off to Castrojarez to visit El Fuero. I sent Salva a message and they wished me luck and thanked me for an experience for them too, so fucking nice and humbling. He also informed me that police had spoken to them that they were keeping an eye on me and that I wasn’t allowed to leave.

Fine! Back to ninja mode it was!

For my stat-whores – The division on the Camino Frances is that you have 3 cities in reasonable short succession (Pamplona 42,8km after the Pyrenees (2-3 days), Logroño 94,4km after that (5-6 days), Burgos 121,4km after that (6-7 days)). Then its León (178,7km or 8-9 days) and finally the city of salvation itself, Santiago de Compostela (305,7km or 3 weeks). The road slowly building up but it wasn’t like I was hanging around in cities now and resting. San Anton had put me roughly 40km after Burgos so it was another good 130km to León.

I had achieved everything I set out to do here and even though I was a little bit intimidated by what was to come, I was more than ready to leave again. Feeling revitalized by all the great people that I met.